KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's little brother took a swing at the Big Orange.
But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga missed its mark Monday night.
The Mocs couldn't quite keep stride in a 76-63 Volunteers victory in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I'm disappointed," UTC coach John Shulman said. "We just weren't that good. Our team has to have gotten a lot better because we were in it until the end at Tennessee and we didn't play very well."
Vols guard Trae Golden tied his career high with 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Skylar McBee, who had an offer to play at UTC, scored 16 dagger points and Jordan McRae added 12 for the Vols (7-6), who now turn their attention to another in-state meeting -- at Memphis on Wednesday.
That will be followed by UT's Southeastern Conference opener Saturday against Florida.
"It was a hard-fought win for the guys, but more importantly, we're getting better," said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, whose team hit 13 of 39 3-pointers. "I think that's always a good sign: You're able to make progress and also win a game."
The Mocs were led by 17 points from senior Ricky Taylor, 16 from Omar Wattad, 15 from Keegan Bell and 11 from Drazen Zlovaric. The rest of the team had four points -- two each by Ronrico White and Zaccheus Mason.
"I thought they did a great job defensively tonight," Bell said. "They're so long and lanky and have guys that can move, and that's so hard to go against."
The Vols led 44-32 at halftime.
Shulman headed back to the floor and said, "I wish we would have gotten Skylar" after McBee, out of Rutledge, Tenn., made five of eight 3s in the first half. He helped the Vols go 9-of-24 on 3s in the first half, which fell in line with Shulman's pregame plan of forcing the Vols to shoot from outside.
UT's previous season high was 29 3s attempted in a loss to the College of Charleston.
The Mocs took a 23-16 lead on a bucket by Zlovaric. Then the Vols hit their stride and more than their fair share of shots. UT scored on 10 of its last 11 possessions in the opening half and reeled off 28 points in the final seven minutes of the period for its 12-point cushion.
The Vols maintained at least a five-point lead for the first 10 minutes of the second half and pushed their advantage to 12 points.
But they couldn't put away the pesky visitors. The Mocs remained within striking distance of the upset once they pulled within seven points and had Bell at the free-throw line, but he missed the first shot in a bonus opportunity.
Then McRae and Cameron Tatum hit 3-pointers for a 13-point lead with almost seven minutes to play. Wattad hit a jump shot to pull UTC within 67-59 with 6:02 to go.
The Mocs couldn't creep closer.
"Our goal was to come into Knoxville and they had to make shots to beat us," said Shulman, whose 2004-05 Mocs beat UT by one. "Well, they made shots and they beat us. If Skylar doesn't go crazy and Golden doesn't go crazy, I think it's a different story."
The Mocs host Western Carolina in a Southern Conference game Thursday night.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...